Te Araroa: Tongariro Alpine Crossing
On Friday, we took the bus from Taumarunui to National Park. The next morning, we were ready at 6am for our shuttle to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The drive to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing took about 20 minutes, but once we arrived we were not yet allowed to leave the bus. First, the driver gave us a safety briefing regarding what to do and what not to do. Around 6.30am, we were finally allowed to leave the bus and start our Tongariro Alpine Crossing experience.
Although it was pretty early, it was already rather busy. We were walking in one long queue.
The start of the track was very easy. We followed the gravel path and board walk through the Mangatepopo Valley. Devil’s Staircase led us to Mangatepopo Saddle. Right in between Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro, we were rewarded with a dramatic view of the valley below. We continued our climb to the top of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Red Crater at 1.889 meter. Because of the fierce wind, it was pretty cold. Thereby, low clouds caused we did not have a lot of visibility. However, once we started our descend from Red Crater, the clouds opened up for a while, giving us an amazing view at Emerald Lakes.
When we passed Blue Lake, clouds rolled back in and the visibility disappeared again. We took a short break at the deck of the Ketetahi Hut (the hut itself is closed). While we were chatting with other hikers, the sun came out. We hesitated to go back up the mountain, but when another cloud rolled in, we figured it wasn’t worth the risk.
From the Ketetahi Hut, the descend was easy but long. After 5 hours, we arrived at the parking. Just in time, as minutes after we arrived it started raining. We had to wait quite a while before our shuttle bus arrived and we were able to get back to National Park.
To conclude, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a beautiful walk. However, after all the stories we had heard about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, our expectations have not fully been satisfied. But this may be due to the fact that we have done a multi-day hike in Island, where you walk for days in a scenery that is comparable to the section from Red Crater to Blue Lake.
Thereby, we walked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from South to North. Walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from North to South (which is the official Te Araroa route) would be just as beautiful. The only downside would be that you would walk into the mass of people walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Some of these people are not used to share their walking track with other people as we experienced when overtaking some other hikers.